Sunday, January 27, 2013

A moment of pride @ the parade grounds on R-day

I could'nt rest till i wrote this, that is why despite a busy weekend, i took off time to write this.

Yesterday morning, for the first time,  i watched a  live R-day parade at the parade grounds, secunderabad.  Duirng my school days have been part of the school band, never remember participating in college and then later days R-day meant cultural mornings and flag  hoisting at our children's school  or at the celebrations at our building society.  A few years, i have only watched the  parade on TV but never in person.

For the first time, we had the privilege of watching it live. We got an invitation from Government of AP through my daughter's school. The H and son who were on a family function trip to Bangalore reached sec'bad only by 8.00 due to delay in the bus arrival. But despite all the discomforts and the security checks enroute  we managed to reach the venue - The parade grounds, Secunderabad by 8.40 which was the time mentioned for the invitees to be seated.Yet again,  a privilege  we enjoyed due to our child. My daughter was part of the 50 member contingent selected by her school for the  R- day parade.

 The Governor of AP  led the celebrations by unfurling the national flag and reviewed the colorful parade by contingents of  the IAF, defence establlishments, police, homeguards, NCC, NGC and a few schools.  This was followed by the tableaux depicting the vaiours development and welfare schemes of AP governement.

It was another moment when we were puffing with pride and this time not just because of my daughter's presence but because of the efforts, time, hardwork put forth by my country men. The amount of hardwork, patience, practice, dedication, discipline  all were translated when they paraded past us in such synchronization, that for a moment looked like they were not soldiers or humans but some mechanized robots.Infact for my dot, it was 5 hours of practice from morn 7 to 12 in the hot sun in the parade ground for a fortnight preceding the R-day. Many swooned during the practice, my daughter suffered sun burns,tan and exertion, but they never gave up. It must have been more intense for the armed and defence forces.

 The governor presented best armed contingent award in the end. First prize to EME centre(Army),  second prize to artillery centre.  In the juniors category , my daughter's school picked up the second prize, first prize went to NCC girls and third prize to National Green corps(NGC).

Now, will let my pictures speak, for i have no words in my vocab to express my feeling. Cameras were not allowed inside and i have clicked using my mobile, which takes time to capture and release , so despite focusing, you might find some pictures in half. I am not able to follow up the photos with the contingents name since the name announced did not coordinate with the contingent which paraded in front of me. It was announced only when it passed in front of the Governor.(click on it to feel the event)

The contingent ( far end) stood like these for nearly 4 hours. To avoid giddiness and maintain glucose levels, many were chewing gums


                            And now the tableaux presenting various state welfare schemes

Rajiv arogyasri, health program

                                                 Rythu sri - a welfare program for the mechanization of farming

 a special tableau depicting  the year of telugu language and culture. the front of this tableau is captured in the pic above this.(3rd prize)

'Mana bhiyam' means 'our rice' scheme where rice is offered at re 1 for BPL family. Don't miss the one rupee coin above the sack of rice.

                              State forest department bagged the first prize in tableau

                                   A program to harness solar energy and conserve power by state energy dept
                                              second  prize winner (animal husbandry)

                                        Tableau of the minority commission department

                        AP tourism tableau depicting the temple of Lepakshi

                                                            The decorated amar jawan memorial

Friday, January 25, 2013

A restored past of the Nizams - The chowmahalla palace

After effortlessly driving through a galli  around Charminar, we reached a place which was just a stone’s throw from the celebrated  signature monument  of Hyderabad.

We found  a place  easily to park our car  in the small parking space (a luxury to find parking these days), we bought the ticket  at the enclosure close to the huge wooden door  only to enter  into the splendor of a bygone era, we were at  The Chowmahalla palace. The palace which now is a museum giving a glimpse of the  opulent nizami lifestyle with courtyards, fountains, gardens and a yard of wagons, coaches, palanquins, custom built gold ford cars, rolls Royce, Harley bikes etc., 

Chowmahalla palace or chowmahallat is Persian ( Arabic?) meaning 4 palaces. Chahar means four and Mahalat is the plural of Mahal meaning palace hence the name. This  palace was the  first official residence  of the Nizams of the Hyderabad state who were then the richest in the world  and was the seat of the Asaf Jahi dynasty.  Modelled on the Shah of Iran's palace in Tehran, chowmahalla was also celebrated by historians as "palace of  Arabian nights". 

Three out of the 4 palaces are single storied.  The double storied  Khilwat Mahal displays the arts, artefacts and artillery of the nizams. Thought the nizams lived a simple life, they entertained the visiting royal dignitaries in a lavish style which was unparalled.The palace is designed in Mughal and European style of architecture.

 Owing to bitter family squabbles ,  This palace was abandoned by the present Prince Mukkaram jah when he moved to Australia in 1973. When he returned back around 2000, the 54 acre estate shrunk into 12 acre as courtyard after courtyard,ballrooms and a mile long banqueting hall were all acquired by real estate developers who demolished the 18th century building to make modern day structures. Infact, it is an eyesore to see the small structures so close to the palace compound. Not just that, the palace was in a dilapidated state, a state of neglect for nearly 30 years with crumbling roofs, damaged walls due to dampness and leakage, dusty treasures like photos, crockery, the royal robes, art works, furniture etc.,

After a long ordeal, the first wife of the present Nizam Mukkaram Jah- The Turkish born princess Esra restored the once royal residence. She took it upon herself in 2002(?)to preserve what remained of the Nizam’s Legacy and restored much of it to some semblance of the past glory and the work is nothing short of incredible.

 As  I went around the palace thrown open to public since 2005, I only went WOW!, OMG! and awed with wonder at the amazing restoration work and its maintenance.  The palace is tightly secured,  the security guards are not intrusive to the tourists and are very polite and well mannered.

Though a stone's throw from Charminar, this is not on the list of things to see for many tourists and not known to many even in Hyderabad, but it’s worth visiting  and spending some time here, if you care and love Indian History and heritage.  Ambling  around the palace corridors and looking at the various nizami treasure is like a travel through a time machine to the days of the Nizam. Worth the 40 bucks we paid  per head( 50 for camera) for international  visitors it is 150. Why this disparity?

This is not just one of India's biggest heritage restoration and conservation project but a well maintained one too. It has received the prestigious UNESCO asia pacific merit award for cultural heritage conservation in 2010 and two times INTACH heritage award.

BTW, just in case anybody sees the name of Azmet jah on the scroll of Hollywood movies, he is the son of Princess Esra and Nizam who has worked with Steven Speilberg and Richard Attenborough and wielded the camera for Basic Instinct and Indiana jones and the last crusade. He hopes to settle in the palace now.

Now for some pics, there are not professional pics and may lack focus and clarity( click on it to feel the place)
As you enter through the main door you walk through a corridor housing a series of rooms and reach this place called Khilwat Mahal.  This  durbar hall is two tiered and  has grand pillars with a huge marble throne called Takht-e-nishan meaning the royal seat. The nizams held their durbar and other religious ceremonies. This hall is covered with bamboo blinds as you can see in the picture. The curtains open up to 19 beautiful belgium chandeliers which have been installed during the renovation project. 

The rooms behind this window displays the history of nizams through the various photographs which have been restored from the dust. Don't miss the stuccos around the window. 
The photographic lineage of the nizams and paigahs is displayed like these in nearly 3 rooms. One of the rooms has a 100 year old clock which was made in GB, it was specially designed for the nizams, It has a caliph smoking a hooka and a servant fanning him in a royal court. the whole court is intricately crafted and an interesting event takes place every 15 minutes. Photography was not allowed in that room. 

The durbal hall

Lovely Belgium chandeliers hang from the ceiling,WOW! (clicked from the trellised balcony of the first floor.) 
The pure marble throne

The chandeliers hang from such beautifull niches, all part of restoration work.
This is the stuccoed ceiling of the "Hall of heritage arts and aretefacts" which has paintings and other art works. WOW again!

The hall of heritage crockery displays a huge hall full of crockery from all over the world. Many branded crockery from Belgium, France, China and other countries displays the opulent lifestyle of the nizams. One dinner set is supposed to have had 2300 piece. OMG!   The royal kitchen cooked rich cuisine which they say was cooked with fursaat( slow cooking called Dum cooking) and with lot of mohabbat(love) . 
The hall of artillery displays two full rooms of armours,swords and guns, OMG!

The back of the khilwat mahal, the gardens lead to Afzal mahal which is the drawing room of the nizams

The view from Afzal mahal which has a lavish drawing room with lovely sofas, armchairs, valenced doorways 
                                                     The flooring in front of Afzal mahal
The clock you see in the top of the dome is called khilwat clock. It has been ticking away for over hundred years. The people of the locality time their clock/watch according to the chimes of the clock. That speaks for the accuracy of the old clock. This door opens to the lane out.

                                    The harleys, fords, rolls royce, various vintage cars, chariots OMG! This area is called Buggy khana and is housed at the back of the palace.

This is the shishe -e-alat meaning mirror image of the long corridor of rooms on the east side ( administrative wing which now has a canteen and handicraft store) . This is the west side.  The shishe -e-alat has a photo studio where tourists dress in the royal robes and get clicked as nizams and begums.
The long corridor which connects the doors of the above rooms
Those are the huge lemons in the royal gardens. Actually the gardens are not very impressive though they are well maintained. 

The palace closes by 5 for visitors but the evening is open to concerts,kavi sammelans,fashion shows,  mushairas, conferences and weddings thus turning this into a cultural house with glorius lighting in the evenings.(pic:google)

Friday, January 18, 2013

A special post for two reasons ;)

 Many a times, people like me live in a place and do not  visit some of the local  places due to our regular routine. And when we do have holiday/long break, we would end up spending our holiday at a farflung place or some weekend getaway. 
But only when you leave or migrate from the place would you realize  that you hav’nt visited some local places  while you were there.
It has happened with me, I have been in Bangalore all my life but am yet to see the Bangalore palace, modeled on the Windsor castle . I have been on this road/ locality( vasanth nagar) more than 100 times, I have been to the palace grounds too when it hosts fun events but have  never seen this palace .
Similarly, My innumerable visits to Chennai has never led me to Mahabalipuram’s Shore temple , that is till recently ( dec’12)
On the same note, I have been in Hyderabad for 11 years and I can count the number of weekend trips that I have missed. We are often out visiting/ exploring some places either at a park, garden, market, a themepark, resort, road,street, mall,hotel, dhaba etc.
 To name a few roughly and  randomly (you can miss this para, just listing out places)- Yogi Bear Putt Putt park, Lumbini park, cantonment park, Sanjeeviah, KBR, jalagam vengal rao parks or at temples like yadagirigutta, ananda Buddha vihar, birla temple, EME mandir, Sarvadharmasthal( maintained by Indian army),  Jagannath mandir,Chilkur, skandagirietc, designer / theme parks like Ramoji Film city,  Dhola ri dhani( rajasthani village), Mount Opera, Dream valley, Leonia resort, Pragati resorts,Alankrita( Kerala style) or at clubs like Century club, chiraan fort, secunderabad club. The stadias like uppal to see matches or to try swinging the clubs at bolarum golf links, go karting at runway 9, or at the various glitzy malls,  the various hypermarkets,multiplexes , upmarket retail stores, malls  like GVK one, Central, Babukhan, inorbit , necklace road,  cheruvus(lakes) like durgam, hussain sagar, osman sagar,  shameerpet, dusty, crowded and chaotic bazaars/gullis and lanes  like begum bazaar,King koti, abids, sultan bazaar, general bazaar,Moazzham jahi market,monda market  or at the historical tombs of the quli qutub shahis,  historical places like  Golkonda, Rashtrapati nilayam, or the one of a kind museum by a single man called Salarjung museum, sudha car museum,  nehru zoological park,the signature monument Charminar…….
 Now wait….wait….this was the point of my post,  the last charminar I’ve been around only two times in the past 11 years. The area around Charminar is the soul of Hyderabad and we usually avoid visiting the places around or venturing into old city due to the chaotic crowd and parking woes.  Whenever we go there   we have ended up coughing penalty due to lack of parking space or the place is overcrowded it is very rare that you can come out without a dent or a scratch in your car or without getting challaned.  Forget all these, it is difficult to even walk around these places unless you are part of a heritage walk.
But in the sankranti weekend gone by, we did gather courage to go to a place which is behind the mecca masjid. Only the previous day there was unrest in the area  which was the talk of social sites and covered by media around the world .
My better half who normally hates crossing into this area due to the heavy bumper to bumper traffic was game for this adventure.
And guess what?
We drove on roads  which looked deserted not due to a bandh call, but due to the long weekend . The people of hyderabad  went to weekend getaways or to their native claimed the newspaper and so our car with very few vehicles ruled the roads leading to the old city.
We could focus more on the beauty of the old city rather than the traffic on the roads. We soaked in the charm of the city,  where there were signs of decay on buildings here and there and the mildew on the buildings only added an aura and soul to the old city.This is a total contrast to the chrome and glass buildings which we see in the Hi-tec city. The bazaars around Charminar are a colorful riot, best described  in Bazaars of Hyderabad by Sarojini Naidu. The display of attar bottles, chudis, colorful zardozi, ari work dresses,mojris, accessories etc.,
And  after the mild traffic in the old area( I would’nt  even term this as traffic) we finally reached our destination  which was home to the regal past of the Nizams of Hyderabad . A monument which was thrown open to public in 2005 after a lot of restoration work. In fact, this was supposed to be one of India’s biggest restoration and conservation project. More on this beautiful timeless jewel in my next post.

Ha...btw, I said this post is special for two reasons in my title,
For somebody, who said " I will be returning in two years time to Bangalore" way back in Jan of 2002, I am completing 11 years of my stay here in ‘Mana Hyderabad’, a city which i hated then(2002), but slowly fallen in love with now(2013) and hence my second ode to Hyderabad. The first ode is here.

and  the second reason,  with this post, i've slowly reached a milestone in my 3(?) year old  blogging journey. This is my 200th post. 

Thank you all for being a part of this journey by leaving your quality comments which i treasure :)
Now some photos of unique places which are not covered by APTDC

                                                           Rashtrapati nilayam
Constructed in 1860 by a Nizam, it became the country house of the British resident at Secunderabad. After 1948, Hyderabad's state annexation. now it is the president's retreat and used as southern sojourn. The indian president  vacations here every year end at Bolarum in secunderabad( recently our present president vacationed here) . Then from jan 1st - 10th only, this is open for the general public.
 The 16-room estate is spread over an area of 90 acres consisting of single storied building besides visitors' quarters that can accommodate 150 people. It has a Dining Hall, Darbar Hall, Morning room, Cinema Hall etc and a herbal garden. The President stays at the residence at least once a year and conducts official business. It was also used as a guest house for visiting dignitaries. what you see is the dining hall clicked by me through a side window. The inside is not thrown open to the public.

the puri jagannath mandir at Banjara hills which is a replica of the mandir in Puri.  
it has beautiful murals from Hindu mythology especially of Lord Krishna. Worth a visit.
 The necklace road is my version of beach for hyderabadi's. It is a pleasure to sit here and do some 'time pass'( read eating groundnuts or roasted charcoal bhutta or gupshupping). The night time is good for enjoying the view, the morning time for walking. The banks of the hussain sagar also serves as a venue for marathons, exhibitions etc., ( statuory warning - lot of mosquitoes). After chilling, You can end up at the eat street or any of the boutique hotels near by:) or catch a night show at Prasad's IMAX closeby
On the banks of Hussain sagar is the Lumbini park through which you can take boat rides to the central Island in the lake which holds the Budhha statue. You have a Laserium in the park which is India's first multimedia laser show on a giant water curtain. This 30 minute show unfolds the history of Hyderabad through laser beams on a water curtain in an open air amphi. The image you see here is of Charminar. (pic courtesy: Google). This was also the place where the terrorists bombed in the hyderabad blasts that occured a few years back.

Sudha car museum is a wacky car museum where you find working models of cars, bikes and buses all modeled in the shape of cup and saucer, helmet, cricket bat, computer, shoe, Phallus(lord shiva) as you can see in the pics above. All these are designed by A single man called Sudhakar, a guiness record holder. This museum is not known to many people and is beside the nehru zoolocial park. For more on this museum  read this.(pic courtesy: google)

and now  the bazaars of hyderabad as described Sarojini Naidu aka 'Aadab Hyderabad'

during my visit last weekend from the moving car as we entered into the galli leading to  the charminar
   Laad bazaar famous for hyderabadi bangles , you can see the pillar of the minar in the background

A glimpse of the shops selling ari, zardozi work. This place is very very active in the night too, since there is a night bazaar. I missed taking a photo of attar shop since the traffic built up on the return around 8.o clock.